Neatly ringed by massive mountain ranges and nourished by precious springs, the Chihuahuan Desert is the largest North American desert and the most biologically diverse in the Western Hemisphere. It spans the Trans-Pecos area of Texas, large parts of southern New Mexico, a slice of Arizona and large portions of several Mexican states. Scientists believe at least 1,000 plant species are unique to the area and 120 species of mammals have been documented there, including black bears, mountain lions and pronghorns, as well as 300 species of birds, and 170 species of amphibians and reptiles. But excessive pressures on the desert’s springs, aquifers, streams and rare rivers from industrial, agricultural and other human use threaten this fragile ecosystem.
The Nature Conservancy has a variety of conservation projects in the region, including the Davis Mountains Preserve, a 33,000-acre expanse that features volcanic peaks, desert grasslands and rare alpine wildlife communities. The preserve is buffered by a network of conservation easements that keep nearly 66,000 acres of neighboring family ranches intact. Two other signature preserves are Independence Creek, whose pristine waters flow into in the Pecos River corridor and sustain an array of rare flora and fauna; and Dolan Falls, long considered one of the jewels of The Nature Conservancy. Dolan consists of 4,800 acres of Conservancy-owned land bolstered by a conservation easement on more than 13,700 acres of adjoining property; it’s located at the intersection of the Edwards Plateau, Chihuahuan Desert and Rio Grande Plains, creating a landscape of outstanding beauty and diversity.
Check out some of the work we’re doing to protect Texas deserts: